The more that time passes, the more that I look back fondly on 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN. At first, it was strange, but then again, a lot of the shows that I love are strange from the outset. Perhaps my threshold for weird is expanding but more likely, I just need something obtuse to keep me on my toes these days; something to truly surprise me.
Gridman was a show about Yuuta Hibiki, a boy with amnesia, finding himself embroiled in a mission to save his city from kaiju with the help of his friends. The catch was that every time the kaiju was defeated, the world was reset the next day. The buildings were rebuilt and anyone who died suddenly had their histories rewritten so that they died of unrelated causes. Only the main characters remembered anything.
There was a mystery. There was also a tangible sense of realism to the way characters talked, especially the high-school protagonists. In an interview with SakugaBlog, director Akira Amemiya confessed that schools were visited to collect data for the show’s production, yet there wasn’t much conscious thought put into making the dialogue more realistic. That almost makes it more impressive that it came off so natural.
CG robots and monsters were used to create a disparity between the character-driven story and the spectacle, similar to how miniature cities and actors in costumes are used in tokusatsu. The villain was complex and one of the best written I’ve seen in years. The reveals were shocking and the scale of the show ended up much larger than it first seemed. And little did we know all that would only be the beginning of a new universe.
From returning director Akira Amemiya and writer Keiichi Hasegawa comes the sequel to 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN, SSSS.DYNAZENON.
Look at any of Japan’s most prominent genres and you might notice how self-referential the country’s media is. The tropes and visual iconography seen in classic Mecha like 1988’s Gun Buster can be seen mimicked in everything from Gundam to other classics like Gurren Lagann. I think of this as a cultural signature of Japan that they love to pay homage to the art that inspires new works. It’s about embracing new while not forgetting the old.
This past fall, SSSS Gridman hit the scene, especially committed to capturing the magic of classic Tokusatsu beyond visual cues. In the same vein, a new series on Netflix appears to have the same intentions, though arguably more accessible than Gridman. With sci-fi directors Kenji Kamiyama (Stand Alone Complex) and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) helming the series, I was dead set from the first trailer. Here is my review of the Netflix Original Series, Ultraman.
Okay, I’ll take full responsibility for this. I placed SSSS. Gridman in an unfortunate position, when I claimed it could be another misfire. Granted, after Darling in the Franxx, I had to be somewhat cautious, but I also acted like this had to be the new Evangelion. As far as I’m concerned, that is always going to be a setup for disappointment.
So now that the ridiculous standard I put it to has been set aside, the question remains: was SSSS. Gridman another misfire from Studio Trigger? Well, you likely read the title to this review so, probably not. But just how good is it?
This is my first impression of episodes 1-7 of SSSS. Gridman
Guys, the masterminds at Trigger are at it once again, breathing life into the mech genre and “saving anime”, because that’s still a thing people talk about. Not only is it full of bitchin’ mech fights, but it’s also got a potentially interesting story beneath the veneer of a monster of the week show.
Now I know what you’re gonna say: “Matthew, isn’t this the exact same fucking thing you said about Darling in the Franxx?” Well, yes, kinda, but trust me they’re gonna get it right this time. Today’s show, SSSS. Gridman could very well be the next Evangel–
-Whoa, whoa, whoa, it it’s only gonna be 12 episodes? Oh, fuck…